Music interview: KT Tunstall

Since rising to fame with her multi-platinum debut album, 2004's Eye to the Telescope, KT Tunstall has released four more studio albums. Each LP is followed by a three-year hiatus, but that doesn't stop her base of loyal fans from flocking to her shows and buying enough copies of her studio efforts to keep her in the Top 10.

KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall

Last weekend saw Tunstall play two Yorkshire shows; one at Hebden Bridge’s famed Trades Club, followed by a headline slot at Pocklington’s Platform Festival. Her last trip to the shires was back in 2013 while touring her fourth studio album, the dark and introspective Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon – an album made in the wake of her split with her husband and the death of her father.

After a long tour, she decided to take a long break from recording and focus on scoring music for films. However, last year, she blasted her way back into the charts with her fifth album, Kin. This stomping collection of optimistic anthems came completely out of the blue. As Tunstall says: “It was a phoenix from the ashes of a very difficult time in my life, which was documented by my fourth record, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon. It was unexpected and I think that it was the marker for the second phase of my life; I don’t know how many phases my life will have, but at 40 years old it was certainly halfway through, if I’m lucky.

“It definitely felt like the beginning of a new chapter; I’d sold everything I owned and moved to a new continent. I suppose it was a flag in the ground to say: it’s possible to start again. I wanted it to be a very strong flag so other people could see that. Change is the only sure thing, right?”

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    Tunstall, originally from St. Andrews in Scotland, also cited moving to Los Angeles as a major influence on her new found creativity. Listening to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Joni Mitchell, she claims, had a large impact on Kin’s sound. Nonetheless, she says this move to America is not a permanent one. “It feels like a lot of people go there to find something that they’re looking for, and not a lot of people find it. I’m probably not going to stay there forever, I’m not even really a city person, but it’s been a fantastic sanctuary and I’ve found the roots of some great music and tapped into, maybe, some of the reasons why it was made there.”

    This new album her renewed Tunstall’s passion for playing and recording as she reveals that Kin is set to be the first of three, and that she is already back in the studio. “I was very excited by an idea that came to me after meditating.”, she explains. “I had a very strong vision that it should be a trilogy, and that Kin was the first of three, so I’m working on the next one this August, and we’re looking to probably put that out next spring. It’s a continuation of what started with Kin, and the whole overview project will end with the third record. It was a strong gut feeling to tap into whatever mojo had come back to me.”

    Tunstall is famous for her interaction with fans, making a point of meeting them after her shows and hosting live chats on Facebook for as long as two hours at a time. The ‘Suddenly I See’ singer believes that, after more than a decade of loyal following, it is the least she can do. “It’s really important, I can’t do what I do without fans. No musician can go out into the world and play the music unless there’s fans supporting what they’re doing, so to me the fan base is more important even than recorded music. The fruition of a song for me is sharing it with people.”